George Shaw is a familiar face at the Class 6A basketball tournament, and after traveling to Emporia's White Auditorium in previous years, he's ecstatic that 6A has returned to Wichita.
For the first time since 1994, Wichita is hosting the Class 6A tourney at Koch Arena.
"This is one classy venue," Shaw said.
BV Northwest boys coach Ed Fritz agreed. Although he wasn't pleased to drive three hours to play Wichita Northwest, he was impressed with the arena.
"This is great," Fritz said. "The locker rooms are awesome. Walking around this facility, it's great."
The concern with the 6A tournament being at Koch Arena isn't about the actual venue.
"This is a venue that's built for basketball and built for large crowds," City League athletic director Bill Faflick said.
The fans are close to the action, despite it seating more than 10,000.
The concern, though, is whether Wichita residents will support it like Emporia's did. There were fair crowds for the first two games of the day. But the Blue Valley Northwest student section outnumbered its opponent's — Wichita Northwest.
The crowds were similar to last year at White Auditorium.
"It is hard to judge how many people are here because it's such a bigger venue," Faflick said. "There was noise, bands, student sections were active.... I don't think it's lacking in atmosphere."
But the Wichita Northwest student fans didn't come out, even though most spring sports practices were canceled to allow those students to attend the 4:45 p.m. game. The girls basketball team chose to attend the game rather than practice in advance of their game today in the first round of the 6A tournament..
"I thought it was a good opportunity for our school to actually show school spirit," said Northwest student Cody Eaves, who is visible at most Northwest sporting events."...At least you saw the real fans."
Heights' student section wasn't much bigger than Northwest's in the day's final game, but there was more of a crowd not necessarily affiliated with Heights or its opponent, Blue Valley West.
Faflick estimated a crowd of about 4,000 for the Heights game.
There wasn't much of an atmosphere, but that may have had more to do with BV West's focus on slowing the game down with long possessions. Heights led 23-9 at halftime.
W. Northwest student section
Wichita Heights fans
Dodge City's band and cheerleaders were the halftime show during the Heights-BV West game. I wish I would have taped the whole thing. They were excellent.
BV West fans
Washburn Rural fans
Olathe East fans
BV Northwest student section
Dodge City fans